Fall Thoughts

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Sorry, it’s been a while. Took a break after Saratoga. A big, long, welcoming break.

You know it’s fall when you wind up in a field on a Saturday, watching horses run and jump. Shawan Downs put on a stellar show Saturday, hosting seven races over ground listed as “good.” The description might have been a stretch, but there was a cut in the ground and it made a big difference to the racing. Horses made divots. Yes, divots. One faller all day, and he jumped up and ran off. Fun day at the races.

Riverdee’s The Grange made her debut, finished 4th, after rallying and blundering at the last. All in all, a good effort and hopefully one we can build on as we go forward. Far Hills is everybody’s goal in the fall and hopefully we can land there with a chance. 

A week earlier, the first annual Virginia Downs came to town, running six races at Great Meadow. The ground was firm but the races were competitive and the betting was lucrative if you were bold enough to be whales in the puddles. Checking the probable payouts for the exactas was a challenge, as many combinations didn’t have any payouts, I think I swept the whole pool once, glad I played it for two dollars, rather than 10. Somebody asked me what I thought and I laughed, “All I know is I’m a lot less critical after getting involved in putting on some of these things.” Again, something to build on, hopefully Virginia racing can rebound. 

Criticism was long and loud when the NSA announced the removal of the two hurdles in the stretch at Belmont Park. As a purist, it was hard to stomach. As a realist, involved in some of the negotiations, it was simply reality. The changes look similar to three-day eventing when they adjusted their steeplechase and roads and tracks phases or when Aintree modified the fences in the England Grand National. Love them or hate them, if there is to be a tomorrow, it seems like the only option. Watching the races from home, I thought they offered plenty of drama and action and, to be honest, it was a relief when horses touched down at the “last” fence on the backside. For better or for worse, I guess, I’m officially an old-timer, talking about the days when we jumped three down the back and one in the stretch at Saratoga.